Connecting the dots
The role of digital in supporting young people into employment.
YouthNet conducted a three month, collaborative research project with employers, sector colleagues working around employability and young people to explore the role that digital support can play in supporting a young person’s journey to work.
Young people felt that much of the career support they encounter is insufficient and presents few options outside the traditional routes (accounting, banking, medical etc). They felt that careers advice was not individual enough and that some options especially those in the creative arts or with social purpose were simply not explored. Furthermore they felt that as decisions made at GCSE may affect their choices later on, earlier intervention by careers services was required.(YN Co-creation 2014)
Young people believe that employers place most value on academic qualifications and work experience when assessing candidates. While this is sometimes the case, the reality is that employers are prepared and often prefer to train young people coming into their organisations. Employers value well rounded applicants and value softer skills like communication, timekeeping, literacy and team-working abilities.(CBI, National STEM centre)
Employers value soft skills of communication, teamworking, literacy and timekeeping highly yet little support is available to young people seeking to develop them. Effective communication is vital to ensure a job and it’s one of the key indicators to employers that a young person is ‘job ready’. (National Careers Service 2013, National Apprenticeships Service 2013, UK Commission for Employment & Skills)
Young people can be demoralised by “the experience trap” (you need to have skills and experience to get a job yet – seemingly – without a job you can’t develop skill and experience). Young people need help to understand the value of the experience and wider life skills they have already accumulated through life experiences, school activities, volunteering and hobbies and how to package and express these assets to a potential employer. (YN co-creation 2014)
Many YP find it difficult to begin a job search – especially when they feel they have little to offer employers, are unsure of where to begin or overwhelmed with options. While young people understand the journey to work is one made of many stages, they report that they would value support to identify and take the first step, particularly through the achievement of smaller attainable goals. (YN Co-creation 2014)
In today’s workplace, there are few clear paths to follow or jobs for life. There is an increased emphasis on flexibility in working and movement between industries. There is a focus on entrepreneurism and self-directed employment. As a result young people need to be entrepreneurial in selling their skillset rather than expecting to follow a vocational path. (The Princes Trust, YN Co-creation 2014)
Young people look to their peers for direction, as role models and for moral support when job seeking. When friends appear successful, comparisons can be discouraging for those who still searching for employment. However positive examples, proactive networking support and emotional boosts from peer groups can be hugely beneficial. This particularly valuable where these personal connections provide an example of an established, credible path to follow or insight into the workplace. (National Careers Service 2013, National Apprenticeships Service 2013, City & Guilds 2012, YN Co-creation 2014)
YP perceive there to be a high level of unemployment and job instability in the UK. As such the choices they make in training courses, apprenticeships and first jobs may permanently define their career direction. They fear that the decisions they make will render them unemployable or worse trap them in a dead end jobs they hate. (National Careers Service 2013, National Apprenticeships Service 2013, YN Co-creation 2014)
YP feel it is impossible to get the information they need to make appropriate choices. They feel they haven’t been given the right information to make informed choices about their careers. They have a low awareness of the full range of sectors and opportunities available to them. While there is a huge amount of information available online, little of it feels tailored to a young person’s personal circumstances so it is difficult to know where to begin. (Lifeskills Youth Barometer 2013, National Careers Service 2013, National Apprenticeships Service 2013, YN Co-creation 2014)
Applying for jobs can be a drawn out process involving many applications, non-responses and rejections. Even worse young people feel that the jobs market is so highly competitive that the odds are stacked against them from the start. In order for young people to keep going they need additional emotional support to recognise and normalise their experiences – and most importantly to see that their hard work will pay off. (National Careers Service 2013, National Apprenticeships Service 2013, YN Co-creation)
A model for employability for young people
YouthNet believes that when young people examine their talents, interests and experiences that they can not only identify a clear path to explore towards a career but also make the most of what they already have to present themselves as “job ready” to employers.
We recognise that is the first step in a journey towards employment that often takes time and may involve many set backs. As a result, young people require additional motivational and emotional support to ensure they can build the resilience to achieve their aims.
We propose a model for employability that suggests young people should do the following:
Take control – Young people need to take control of their situation and be entrepreneurial in seeking avenues for employment that interest and engage them.
Understand themselves– Knowledge of their strengths, transferable skills and the value of existing experience is a key starting point in a young person’s journey to employment.
Do stuff – Young people should feel confident to try potential options without fear of becoming trapped and to proactively build their networks.
Craft themselves – Young people need to be able to communicate what is great about them. Packaging up their existing skills and experiences and then expressing them to potential employers in a language they understand.
Build resilience – The road to work is a huge transition to young people. Job seeking takes time and often involves many, potentially demoralising setbacks. Young people can benefit from motivational and emotional support to keep moving forward.
What can YouthNet do to support young people around employability?
The journey to employability has two sides. Examining how young people know themselves and how their skills, interests and experiences can contribute to their employability and examining how young people can gain insight into the world of work.
There is a wealth of existing services and initiatives designed to offer young people insight into the world of world, yet there is very little that helps young people to examine and package their personal skills for employer; even fewer working directly to support young people’s resilience as they work towards employability.
YouthNet is ideally positioned to provide early intervention support around this area. Through our content provision and online communities we are able to deliver a unique blend of practical and emotional support to young people seeking work.
Moreover, through the publication of focussed digital tools designed with and for young people we can ensure young people are well positioned to make them most of existing employability initiatives and services as well as preparing them for interviews and supporting the transition to the workplace.
Projects with young people
YouthNet put young people at the heart of everything we do. To this end, young people were recruited with different demographic backgrounds, from different stages in their employment journey and varying experience of using technology to help us explore employability and how we might create impactful digital support services.
The YouthNet Job Squad is the project group for this work. It has been created from 20 young people drawn from across the UK, all aged 16-25 at various stages of their employment journey. The aim of the Job Squad is to provide insight into young people’s needs and experience to help shape and guide YouthNet’s employment content and services.
Those involved will gain skills and experience; taking part in co-creation sessions, learning digital and basic coding skills as well as meeting and networking with career experts at a Job Ready workshop. Throughout the process they will be supported by our volunteering team throughout the process and use their own networks to connect online with other young people to share tips, advice and stories.
YouthNet is working with O2 on ‘Project Magenta’ – an initiative to develop a new mobile app to help young people stay motivated and take positive actions when seeking work. The app will be available to download via GoThinkBig and YouthNet in Autumn 2014.
The app will be designed by a dedicated project group of twelve young people, who’ll drive the project from start to finish. They’ll be a crucial part of the creation process and, at the same time, they’ll hone their digital skills and critical thinking while gain inspiring work experience.
We ran workshops with young people utilizing personas to gain insight into their world and the issues that affected them.
YouthNet would like to give special thanks to our experts and young volunteers
Jignesh Vaghadia – Recruiter, Societe General
Alison Gardner – Head of CSR, Capital One
James Innes – Programme Manager, Skills to Succeed Accenture
Suraj Vadgama – Trustee, Forward Foundation
Keith Rivers – Partner, UK Public Consulting CSC
Iain Dennis – Chief Executive, Eden Brown
Rob Rees – Development Manager, Guardian
Sandeep Bharma – Consultant, Investment Banking, Societe General
Kesah Trowell – Communications Specialist and CSR Lead, Carphone Warehouse
Joseph Mitchell – Associate, DLA Piper
Peter Rutland – Senior Managing Director, CVC Capital Partners
Chrissy Stergios – Senior Account Manager, HARRIMANSTEEL
Michael Murdoch – Founder & Creative Director, The House London Ltd.
Paul Clarke – Brightside, Head of External Affairs
Darshan Sanghrajka – Founder, State of Ambition
Rosa Morgan-Baker – Programme Manager, City Brokerage
Sarah Alonge – Campaigns Co-ordinator, Elevation Network
Glenys Ruan – Programmes Manager, Futureversity
Matt Dronfield – Employee Engagement Manager, London Youth
Jim Harper – Progressions coordinator, Streetleague
Hannah Grant, Kathy Oldridge and Sarah Snoxall - Antennae